ACF envisions a world where living music creators are celebrated as essential to human culture. To do this, we support and advocate for individual artists/groups who are creating music today that demonstrates the vitality and relevance of their art. We connect artists with collaborators, organizations, audiences, and resources both fiscal and otherwise. Through storytelling, publications, recordings, hosted gatherings, and industry leadership, we activate equitable opportunities for artists, highlighting those who have been historically excluded.
We identify as a go-to space for artists who create music throughout the U.S. and its territories. However, we realize we have failed to include and recognize many artists as being a part of our community because of our own biases, exclusive practices, and historic focus on Western European classical* music created by artists who are majority white. This has made us less effective in being that go-to space. It means that we have missed out on building relationships with many music creators, too.
ACF’s commitment to being a racially equitable organization guides us and our work. We are committed to centering the BIPOC* narrative and, as such, have outlined goals for achieving a majority BIPOC – or at 60% – representation throughout the organization by our 50th anniversary in 2025. These goals are integrated into our current Five-Year Strategic Plan.
We seek to include within the racial equity frame additional inequities such as diverse gender identities, musical approaches and perspectives, ages, (dis)abilities, cultures, religions, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and broad definitions of being “American.” Our work succeeds with trust and participation from the artists we support and connection to the ecosystem that presents, performs, and receives their music. When space is created for more people to belong, it benefits not only the artists and our networks, but also the world.
- Recognize and acknowledge the intrinsic value each artist has and nurture a sense of belonging that honors their self-described identities
- Challenge and refresh the language, structure, and process of each of our programs, informed by our anti-racism practice and integrating consistent feedback from the artists we seek to include
- Confirm with prospective grantees and anti-racist leaders that our grantmaking process is explicit, transparent, and intentional to ensure racially inclusive and equitable opportunities; this includes application criteria, language, timeline, and panelists so we track increased participation from artists historically excluded: By FY25 at least 60% of applicants are BIPOC and 60% are underrepresented genders and at least 60% of the final selections are BIPOC (to the best of our knowledge)
- Ensure every panel is racially equitable and representative of diverse gender identities, musical languages, and geographic locations (guided by RE-Tool resource)
- Create a sense of belonging by replacing our traditional membership structure with an expansive Artist Services area that offers resources and connections to all users, and improved access, supported by advocacy for equitable music creator opportunity listings
- Pilot a new recording label model that offers more opportunities for underrepresented artists to work with the innova recordings team and share their music through more cost-effective options. Artists will be selected by a diverse panel to avoid gatekeeping tendencies, ensuring an outcome of at least 60% BIPOC recording artists by FY25
- Amplify racially diverse ensembles in our programs, e.g., featured digital series, ACF Connect, youth programs, and recordings
- Engage in intentional dialogue about cultural appropriation to facilitate equitable collaboration between artists with different musical perspectives
- Leverage our platform to amplify BIPOC artists and arts organizations, e.g., Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Third Sound, Castle of Our Skins, Sphinx, etc.
- Build a national network of venues, studios, engineers, producers, presenters, and other partners committed to racial equity and supporting underrepresented artists
- Engage with historically-white presenters/partners in anti-racism conversations, including investing in, programming, and presenting work by BIPOC artists
- Convene public forums focused on equitable opportunities with music creators
- Invest in published content authored or curated by BIPOC individuals
- Invite BIPOC artists, community members, and administrators to serve on decision-making committees, with no more than 40% of make-up being represented by whiteness by FY25
- Acknowledge the indigenous land on which we live and work with reflection, research, and authentic partnerships with our Native community
- Expand and illustrate the multiple ways the term composer can be applied and include language that is not limited to “composer,” e.g., music creators, creative musicians, artists, etc.
- Build partnerships with influential leaders, collectives, and organizations focused on the advocacy of non-white and/or women artists to learn from and support their efforts
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
- Model cultural change through ongoing anti-racism training and practices, power sharing, and accountability to BIPOC and historically-marginalized artists
- Acknowledge and dismantle inequitable policies, practices, and cultural norms that perpetuate racist behavior and/or white privilege
- Expend resources, time, and money to recruit board, vendors, consultants, and volunteers so that by FY25 the racial identity across all stated areas will be at least 60% BIPOC
- Host racial equity study groups and other monthly training to engage in consistent dialogue about race with both white and BIPOC colleagues
- Convene an Equity Board Committee to ensure each ACF Board and staff member is invested in and understands this commitment
- Invest in staff and technology to improve our quantitative and qualitative data collection to track progress
- Continue to invest in staff/board/artist training, policy review, research, evaluation, and benefit structures to ensure ACF is an inclusive, equitable, and thriving organization that attracts and retains diverse individuals
Knowing our actions will speak louder than our words, ACF is committed to advancing the intentions outlined above to achieve greater racial equity in our organization. Through continued listening and learning, we will gain a deeper understanding about the biases of our systems, enabling us to make informed adjustments and develop new goals. By cultivating fair, meaningful opportunities for their music to flourish, we hope to gain and nurture the trust of disenfranchised, undersupported, and historically-excluded artists fulfilling our mission to advocate for American composers who collectively reflect our world today.
American: For purposes of the current scope of ACF’s work we prioritize artists and collaborators based in the United States and its territories, inclusive of the sovereign Native nations, immigrants, short-term and long-term residents, and U.S. residents living abroad.
Anti-Racism: The active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.
BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, People of Color – we recognize no umbrella term will include everyone that has been excluded on the basis of race. We will strive to evolve our language with the most inclusive terminology.
Composer: (from Latin word “compono ”: one who puts together) an individual or group that creates and/or organizes original sound and listening experiences.
Diversity: Individuals from a variety of backgrounds, with specific focus on representation of a plurality of races and ethnicities, and including the intersections of identities such as gender identity, generation, sexual orientation, national status, socio-economic status, veteran status, and disabilities, among others.
Equality: The same opportunity is offered to everyone regardless of history, prejudice, or other pre-existing barriers. It does not recognize the systems that perpetuate status quo and discrimination toward non-white and other groups.
Equity: The promotion of justice, impartiality, and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the context and underlying or root causes of outcome disparities within our society. Equity ensures that every individual has what they need to be able to fully participate.
Inclusion: The degree to which diverse individuals can participate fully in the decision-making processes within an organization or group.
Intersectionality: Kimberlé Crenshaw’s term to describe the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect for women and non-binary people of color. Treating race and gender as mutually exclusive categories invisibilizes those that intersect both, such as black women.
LGBTQAI: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Asexual, Intersexual
Underrepresented Genders: This includes women, non-binary, and men and women of the trans community.
Western European classical: We recognize that in American music, “classical” is a default term referring to Western European-based musical traditions, but we will clarify our intentions by using the term Western European classical to describe a style versus Indian classical, for example.
Whiteness/White: The National Museum of African American History and Culture states that Whiteness and white racialized identity refer to the way that white people, their customs, culture, and beliefs operate as the standard by which all other groups are compared. Whiteness is also at the core of understanding race in America. Whiteness and the normalization of white racial identity throughout America’s history have created a culture where nonwhite persons are seen as inferior or abnormal.
This white-dominant culture also operates as a social mechanism that grants advantages to white people, since they can navigate society both by feeling normal and being viewed as normal. Persons who identify as white rarely have to think about their racial identity because they live within a culture where whiteness has been normalized.